When McKinley Skemp headed for Austin, Texas, a little more than a year ago for a spring break getaway, she had no idea that her trip would inspire an art project that would occupy much of her senior year at Elmhurst.
Skemp, a graphic design major from Dubuque, Iowa, fell in love with Austin’s food trucks, the mobile eateries that attract devoted followings of hipsters, foodies, lunch-breaking office workers and other street-corner gourmands. So when she returned to Elmhurst, she began sketching out designs for a food truck of her own.
Thus was born Pudgy Pig, an as-yet strictly fictional food truck (sorry, barbecue fans), for which Skemp created a comprehensive set of designs—everything from menu flyers to a life-size graphic rendering of the truck itself. Skemp’s Pudgy Pig designs are on display in the Frick Center until May 31, as part of the 46th annual exhibition of senior-year capstone art projects.
“I liked the whole feel of Austin, especially how receptive they are to art and new ideas. And I especially liked the food trucks,” Skemp explained. “I thought it would be such a fun adventure to design a food truck of my own.”
Skemp’s “fun adventure” quickly turned into a meticulously executed labor of love. She wanted her designs to have a hand-made, streetwise feel appropriate to the impromptu nature of food trucks, so she created all her typefaces by hand. But with no delete key to help her repair mistakes, Skemp found herself scrapping work and starting over each time she was dissatisfied with a serif or letter stem. That process, she says, was “horribly, horribly time-intensive.” Beginning her work in January, she completed the last of her designs just before the exhibition’s opening on May 10. Assistant Professor Geoff Sciacca, who oversaw Skemp’s project, said the effort shows.
“So much graphic design is done in digital environments, but McKinley really embraces what she can do with hand-made elements. There’s a guerilla, street-marketing aesthetic to this work that really fits the topic,” he said. “She really pushed herself.”
Skemp’s designs for the barbecue truck include Pudgy Pig logos, flyers, food packaging, customer-loyalty punch cards, phone apps and T-shirts. “Nice to Meat You,” announces one of the shirts.
“I wanted everything to be eye-catching and a little whimsical,” Skemp said. So she chose a color scheme of vivid pink, yellow and black and sketched a delightfully smiley pig for the truck’s logo. “If you want people to eat from your food truck, it makes sense that your truck should at least look good.”
Indeed, it is difficult to look at Skemp’s designs for Pudgy Pig without starting to crave some barbecue (the smiling visage of Pudgy notwithstanding). She and friends have talked about someday launching an actual food truck. And Skemp’s mother, Diane, even whipped up a batch of chipotle-rhubarb barbecue sauce, to sell at the exhibition’s opening. But for now, Pudgy Pig exists only in Skemp’s designs and in her imagination.
After graduation, Skemp (who was named by her blues- and jazz-loving parents for singer and guitarist McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters) hopes to work in design for the food industry. But she knows it may be hard to ever find a better client than Pudgy Pig.
“Of all the projects I’ve done,” she said. “This is the one I have enjoyed the most.”